Security tightened at Singapore courts after two attempts to escape

Friday, June 13, 2008

Subordinate Courts entrance

Following a failed escape attempt on Wednesday at the detention facilities of the Subordinate Courts of Singapore, security has been increased.

At 1:45 a.m., Jamaluddin Salam, 32, and Salman Abu Samah, 28, tried to escape from the basement lock-up by requesting water. An officer opened the cell gate to fulfill the request, which is a breach of procedure; he should have merely passed water through a hole in the cell door. The prisoners took advantage of the open gate and overpowered the officer, violently punching and kicking him to the ground before heading to the gates at the lock-up's exit, pressing a buzzer to inform the officer at the control room to unlock the gates. The officer did not check the security camera monitor to see who was at the gates before unlocking it, constituting another breach of procedure.

Following their successful exit from the lock-up, the duo used the lift just past the exit gates to reach the fourth floor of the facility, forcing open a locked door and going down a stairwell to reach the ground floor.

Within 10 minutes of the escape, the duo was spotted at the ground floor. The alarm was raised and officers were deployed to seal off all exits. Near the facility's main entrance, Salman tripped and was quickly subdued. Jamaluddin made his way to the back entrance, but found it locked. He then doubled back to the front and dashed out of the facility. An officer tripped him with his baton about 100m outside of the facility.

The attempted escape came barely four months after terrorist-fugitive Mas Selamat Kastari fled the Whitley Road Detention Centre. Failure to observe procedures on the part of his minders was also a reason for that escape.

The two men were brought from Queenstown Remand Prison to the Subordinate Courts for bail purposes. Jamaluddin was facing six counts of robbery with hurt and drug charges, while Salman had three charges of robbery with hurt. Both cases are unrelated. Bail was set at $30,000 for Jamaluddin and $20,000 for Salman.

Police revealed yesterday that Jamaluddin and Salman were not the only inmates in the cell. It has not been revealed how many inmates were in the cell but it is known that they stayed put during the escape attempt.

In a statement, police said they have been upgrading the lock-up area since 2003, adding extra security grilles and enhancing the CCTV system.

A security audit of all lock-ups was conducted in March. The following month, a working group was set-up to look specifically into the security of the Subordinate Courts lock-up facilities.

The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) is now investigating the circumstances of the attempted escape to see if any officers were negligent.

Due to the escape attempt, security at the facility has been tightened to prevent a similar incident from happening. New security measures include an extra lock fixed onto the lock-up exit gates so that another officer will need to check who is leaving the area when it is unlocked. The elevator has also been secured and can only be activated with a key.

Jamaluddian and Salman are now likely to face a barrage of charges including vandalism, police battery and escaping from legal custody.